What inspires you to work in the hospitality industry?
I’m inspired by the access that the industry can create to upward mobility. My personal story, like those of so many industry leaders, starts at the entry level. There is still much work to be done to drive representation at the executive/leadership level in the industry. But, I’m encouraged by the progress made in recent years.
Tell us about your role as GM at the Thompson Hotel.
I’m excited to assume the GM role at Thompson Atlanta – Buckhead for several reason. The hotel is stunning, the restaurants are outstanding, and the team is incredible. My style of leadership is highly engaged but not heavy handed. I believe in brining in the best talent and getting (myself and obstacles) out of their way. I’m very inquisitive. I get into a little bit of everything. But, that’s how a learn which levers to pull to best be supportive to the team and create memorable experiences for our guests.
Out of all of the hotels in Atlanta, why should someone consider staying at your property?
As I noted above, the team is second to none and the hotel itself has an award-winning design, delicious food, and cocktails crafted by one of Atlanta’s best loved bartenders, Thandi Walton. Tesserae has the best view in the city and the vibe is off the charts. Beyond those things, which I consider to be “the price of admission” we’re striving to embed our business in the community differently. We want to bring all of the great things that Atlanta has to offer into our guest experience through unique and interesting programming.
Customer service has changed since the pandemic. How do you inspire your staff to provide a high level of service?
Over the past few years people are, more than ever, seeking to align their work and their spend with their values. Our guests are better informed than any generation of customers who’ve ever lived. The same goes for our team. There are lots of great hotel options for people to choose for work. But, there’s something really special about knowing that your work is pouring into something more substantive. Everything from the music we put on the playlist to the speakers we bring in for book signings and artist talks will add to the space of creating the most inclusive luxury experience in the market.
What does success look like for you?
Success would look like Thompson Atlanta – Buckhead owning a reputation as the best loved luxury hotel in the market by both the people who work here and the people who stay here. I want everyone to see a little of themselves in the day to day decisions that we’re making when we curate experiences here and when we’re out in the community.
Donte Johnson General Manager, Thompson Atlanta – Buckhead
A native of Washington, DC, and graduate of Saint Peter’s University (2001, Communications), Donte Johnson began his career in the hospitality industry in 2001 with Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants; during his time with the company, held several positions, including concierge, director, of guest services, area revenue manager and assistant general manager. In 2008, Johnson was the youngest employee ever promoted to general manager for the company.
He has since served in this capacity at six properties across four cities, including his hometown Washington, DC, Miami, Baltimore, and his current home, Atlanta, where he has served as the general manager at Thompson Buckhead since earlier this year.
In his role, Johnson oversees and executes commercial strategy and hotel and property operations, including staff management, guest satisfaction, and community relations. Throughout his career, Johnson has developed and fostered a mission focused on social impact, working with his team and local organizations and leaders to support the community and various philanthropic efforts. Among the many programs and initiatives he led in Baltimore during the coronavirus pandemic, Johnson and his team orchestrated free lunch and produced distributions to support those in need, offered the hotel’s restaurant space and kitchens to local food businesses, and provided free/discounted overnight stays for first responders and front-line hospital workers. They also partnered with dozens of BIPOC, women, and LGBTQ+-led local vendors to offer an expansive array of products and services at the hotel that reflected their engagement with the citywide community.
In May of 2023, Johnson’s team received The Maverick Award from The Reginald F. Lewis Museum, an honor bestowed upon them for their unique brand of community leadership. In June 2022, Johnson was named an “Influential Marylander” by The Daily Record. The awards program honors recipients for their significant contributions to their respective fields and leadership in Maryland and Johnson was honored for his civic leadership. In 2021, Johnson was recognized as one of the Baltimore Business Journal’s “Leaders in Diversity,” chosen for paving the way for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. In 2011, he was named to the Washington Business Journal’s highly coveted “Top 40 Under 40” list, an honor recognizing standouts in their industry who have also impacted the Greater Washington community. He has mentored young people through the Higher Achievement Program and Hospitality High School in DC and served on the Board of Directors for the Hotel Association of Washington, Visit Baltimore, the city’s convention and visitor bureau, and The Mount Vernon Place Conservancy. Currently, he serves as one of four Co-Chairs for The American Hotel & Lodging Association’s GM Roundtable. He is also a McKinsey & Company’s Black Executive Leadership Program graduate. Johnson and his work have been featured in multiple podcast interviews and publications, including The Washington Post, USA Today, Travel + Leisure, Lodging Magazine, Hotel Management Magazine, CoStar, Travelnoire, and CNN.
Donte P. Johnson [LinkedIn]